This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of Martha Henrietta Philips (Collection 314, T3) in the archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words which were recorded is omitted. In a very few cases, the transcribers could not understand what was said, in which case "[unclear]' was inserted. Also, grunts and verbal hesitations such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted. Readers of this transcript should remember that this is a transcript of spoken English, which follows a different rhythm and even rule than written English. Place names in non-Western alphabets are spelled in the transcript in the old or new transliteration form according to how the speaker pronounced them. Thus, Peking is used instead of Beijing, because that is how the interviewee pronounced it.
. . . Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence of the speaker.
. . . . Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete sentence.
( ) Word in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.
[ ] Words in brackets are comments made by the transcriber.
This transcript was completed by Wayne D. Weber and Paul Ericksen in September 1999.
Collection 314, T3. Interview of Martha Henrietta Philips by Paul Ericksen, September 26, 1985.
ERICKSEN: [Philips clears her throat] This is an interview with Martha Henrietta Philips by Paul Ericksen for the Missionary Sources Collection of Wheaton College. This interview took place at the offices of the Billy Graham Archives in Wheaton, Illinois, on September 26, 1985, at 1:30 pm. Well, when we finished our last interview we were still talking about your time in Weihsien.
ERICKSEN: And we talked a little bit...you...you talked about how the children or the students weren't getting along and how Eric Liddell helped with some of that. How did the adults get along?
PHILIPS: Back to the students. That was not necessarily our students. There were many students that ...
PHILIPS: ...didn't have...didn't have any Christian background at all and so that was were the difficulty was. And some of the adults got along well and some didn't. And adults can sometimes get over it a little bit better. But there were disharmonies. There were problems and when you're under stress unless the Lord undertakes it can be very difficult.
PHILIPS: We didn't happen to get involved in that sort of thing...
PHILIPS: ...but we saw a good many things.
ERICKSEN: Were there incidents where CIM [China Inland Mission] missionaries were able to mediate in problems?
PHILIPS: Well, now I have to qualify this. I was only there about three weeks...
PHILIPS: ...and I was looking after this miniature hospital and so I didn't see any of those, sometimes you know, just disharmonies. People can, but I don't know.
ERICKSEN: What was involved in this hospital, the miniature hospital you referred to?
PHILIPS: Well, I have this child with the mumps and another one that hadn't yet had it and they didn't want to expose everybody and I had a child with hepatitis and that was all. There was no... they...the hospital at Weihsien had completely dis...been dismantled. But gradually they got beds put in, different things doc...there were doctors there but they didn't have their instruments, they didn't have their medicines and yet they took care of people. Of course we left before there was much of that. But there was a great deal of that and even Eric Liddell died in the hospital there so....
ERICKSEN: How did the Japanese treat you there?
PHILIPS: Again, we were there such a short time. We had no problems. I had no problems with them at all.
ERICKSEN: What about, let's say, the other people that had been there longer? Did you hear them talking about their treatment, either favorably...?
PHILIPS: I don't recall hearing anything of it. Of course, people are not naturally in love with their captors.
PHILIPS: But there was...I didn't hear anything of...of harsh treatment. I don't know.
ERICKSEN: Okay. Before we started running the tape you mentioned that you'd recalled the names of the folks who ran the Vancouver home.
PHILIPS: Carolyn and Ford Canfield. Those were the ones that helped with the teaching. The others [coughs]...the others I have not yet thought of. The one who's husband was Walker so-and-so.
ERICKSEN: Uh-huh. [laughs] Well, I think we've pretty much covered all the...the topics related to your internment. Anything you'd like to add that.... One other thing you did mention was where funding came from to provide for food...
ERICKSEN: ...for the children.
PHILIPS: ...that was an interesting story. [clears throat] You see the war started on the seventh of Jul...seventh of December out there or eighth of December there, seventh here, because of International Date Line. We had had the check to cover holiday expenses to feed those children. That had been taken to the Japanese controlled bank on Saturday. All banks had been Japanese controlled from '38 on. There were no other banks. [clears throat?] At the bank they had said, due to some technicality, "We won't give you the money today. Come again on Monday and you may have it." They knew. [laughs] They knew with diabolical accuracy when those first shots would be fired. If they'd kept that check till Monday it would be theirs. And so it was not one penny forthcoming to feed those children. And every bank account was confiscated. Everything in the bank now was Japanese. Well, of course, you say, "What would you do in a case like that?" There's only one thing to do is to talk to the Lord about it. But you know it was a good thing we could say, "Lord they're your children. We're just looking after them for You. What are You going to do about it?" It wasn't really shoving the responsibility but that's were it was. Well, of course, I think people understand that missionaries have servants. When you think of all the servants people have here, electrical appliances and all.... We dismissed some of the servants. It took a good many to meet the needs of those children. And we put...we took on jobs we hadn't had and the boys and girls began learning things not in textbooks. And then we put ourselves on strict rations, the strictest we felt we dared because we had to keep the children in health. Each child knew, for instance, practically how many slices of bread he had coming per day. If he overate at breakfast he was hungry by evening so they learned their arithmetic quickly and accurately. Nobody ever subtracted incorrectly more than once. And then we counted our pennies, money that was in hand. If there had...there isn't much in hand on the mission field. If there had been it would have been put in the bank for safety and the Japanese would have had it. So it was just the money we had in hand. And we found that by being very careful using these rations and all we could feed the children for three months. But nobody could help us so far as we could see at the end of three months. That was it. Well, of course, we knew we had the Lord. We told the children...you know what a strength it is to get a definite answer to a definite prayer and we knew it would be that for the children. We told them and day after day they prayed even as we did that the Lord would supply the needs. One day before the three months were up our secretary was sitting in his office working and a Chinese businessman came in so disturbed. He said, "I am in a place of great difficulty. Here is a rather large sum of money. I must get to this other city immediately. The Japanese won't let it out of Chefoo. Can you help me?" He knew nothing of our needs. His own needs: pay your bills or loose your business and he had to keep his family fed. Well, we'd been cut off from the rest of the pearl...world from the day of Pearl Harbor, no mail coming or going. But our secretary sent a message, you know, sort of over the back fence, and it was relayed and relayed till it got to mission headquarters away in free China. The money in the treasury for us but they couldn't send it to us. The Japanese would get it. So they took our money and paid this man's bill and we had the money the Japanese wouldn't let out of Chefoo and wouldn't let it in either. So we told the children about it that night. They held a praise service thanking God for turning in...for...for sending in the money. I think I told you earlier about the men that had been taken captive. Did I tell you about this eleven year old girl who prayed came and rejoicing?
ERICKSEN: Yeah. You mentioned her but you...and you referred...
PHILIPS: I hadn't...
ERICKSEN: ... to the men but you really didn't go into that in any detail.
PHILIPS: Yeah. Well, there was the...the money had come in. Of course, I did tell you about the men being released and the money. But every time we'd get a little bit short, we never got to the pottom...per...[unclear]...to the place where we could see the bottom of the barrel. Never. But every time we'd run a little bit short another man would come with the same request. Our secretary told me he didn't think the same man every came twice. We never knew it. Of course, that was a protection for him. You never know if you get caught. You don't know what you're going to reveal under torture. We were never caught but the Lord supplied all of our needs as long as we were on that compound. Of course, when we got over to Temple Hill, then the Japanese government began to allow so much a day. And they said to us, "You'd better be careful with that. We're not going to give you any more money on...in the winter time when you'll need it for fuel. You better save a much as you can." And we did, saving all we could for the winter and then before winter came they transferred us to Weihsien and they put in their pockets what we had saved. Those things...you know, human beings are what we are dealing with. But it was...we didn't...we didn't suffer in eating those things. We didn't get what we ordered often but we...we were grateful for what we got. And it wasn't always good. We did the best we could with it but the Lord undertook. Up to this time did I tell you our children hadn't grumbled?
PHILIPS: And they began to grumble. We'd been praying for revival you know and every time we prayed for revival the Lord shut [hits fist against hand] us up a little bit tighter, a little bit tighter. And finally when we got to the point we couldn't do anything He was right there. Sure we had revival. Our grumble was this. The children said, "We haven't anybody else we can help." Having their own daily devotions just as soon as they got something fresh from the Lord, off they'd go and share it here. So everyone in our (see, I told you there were three camps there)... everyone in this camp....
ERICKSEN: This is at Temple Hill?
PHILIPS: Yes. Everyone in this camp had had a fresh touch from the Lord. We'd have revival all right. I think that was a grumble that was pleasing to the ears of Lord. And so He picked...oh, He used Japanese hands to do it. He picked us up from here and moved us out to the Weihsien Camp and I told you about going there.
ERICKSEN: Uh-hmm. Now you said that when you left Weihsien you took twenty-five students with you.
PHILIPS: Yes. Twenty-five of...of our CIM students.
ERICKSEN: They were all Chefoo students?
PHILIPS: That's right.
ERICKSEN: Were there...how many adults were there?
PHILIPS: [pauses] I suppose fifteen, twenty, or more. They weren't just school. They were members of the mission or American citizens.
ERICKSEN: Uh-huh. So twenty-five all together?
PHILIPS: No, no. Twenty-five children.
PHILIPS: When we go to...to Rio de Janeiro, that was another surprise. We being just a China group wouldn't have anybody in Latin America and the denominational missions folks were saying, "Their people were coming to meet them from this country and that one." We decided we'd have a good time by ourselves. We'd see what we should and every...as we were getting in there, (I can't remember the name of it) but we were all out peering into a dense bank of fog, and up on the top of one of those mountains (it's not Sugar Loaf but another one) there was a statue of the living Christ with arms outstretched, the sun shining on it. [Christ the Redeemer statue atop Corcovado Mountain] Just a hush fell over that godless crowd. In a moment the clouds drifted together and we went on in. Then we went down to have lunch before we got off the boat. And there in front of my plate was a note. "Dear Miss Philips, I'm an old Chefoo boy. My wife and I are here in Rio. We'd like to entertain the Chefoo people while they're here." And here they were, this boy who had graduated from the school, he and his wife and two little boys. And they took us everywhere. We felt all the sights; we couldn't see them [because of the fog]. But the next day it was a beautiful day and we could see it as we were leaving. But that night they had all of us out to their house for dinner. She'd inquired of him what the Chefoo kids liked and, of course, as I told you before, peanut butter was one of the things. But we had quite a...an elastic type of meal but there was forty of us that night. Now that tells you something of what...I don't know whether that included all the CIM that were there but there were forty of us at the house and twenty-five of them were the children.
ERICKSEN: Can you describe your...the process of repatriation that you went through?
PHILIPS: [laughs] Yes, I can. On the way...well, see we [pauses]...after we got onto the Gripsholm we hadn't mentioned that yet.
PHILIPS: The Gripsholm came out to meet us at Goa [on the western coast of India]. Yes, we get onto the prison ship. Did I tell you the sh... sh... size accommodation we had? Each of us had a straw tick [mattress] six feet long and aimed at twenty-four inches wide. Their aim was poor. Anywhere from fifteen to twenty-four jammed together [claps hands] side by side as close as they could get them, thirty-five in a row. And just to make it interesting my number was eighteen, I had seventeen people on either side of me. Just...you couldn't move without disturbing somebody. There was another...a shelf above us about like a double deck, not quite as high as a double deck. But you had to get back and slither in to get in there. Thirty-five above us thirty-five above or thirty-five with their heads next to ours, thirty-five above them, at their feet and our feet. Aisles just wide enough to walk through and there were two hundred forty of us in that one enclosed deck space. It was...it was rugged and we...yes, we were on....
ERICKSEN: How much space did you have up above you before the next shelf?
PHILIPS: Well, I was on the lower deck so I got just the...the next shelf. I don't know what there was up there. I...I think it was from there on up to the ceiling. It might have been...it might have been forty inches. That's just a guess. But ours was...was a small space so they didn't have to climb too far to get up. But it was...it was quite an experience. And on that ship, well, water was insufficient. It was difficult keeping the kids clean. Conditions were really indescribable. But they had four classes of dining room, three sittings at a meal. My girls and I were fortunate enough to be in the first class dining room in the second sitting. They'd give us like a little juice glass full of water maybe about three inches of water in it. It was all yours. You could have it if you wanted it, but if you didn't drink in all they wouldn't think of throwing it out. They'd bring it up to that level for the next person. [Ericksen laughs] And that was a little difficult for a bacteriologist to see, I can tell you. One of [laughs]...one of the...the lady who sat in my seat in the first sitting was one of the few rare birds that still had some lipstick and she always left a little ring on the glass. I didn't like the looks of it (they never washed in between). I didn't like the looks of it so I rubbed it off but the poor fellow sitting there next time wouldn't know what part had been used and what hadn't. But they never washed in between. We commonly referred to our food as our Lutheran diet. Of course, you recall that Martin Luther was tried by the Diet of Worm and the Diet was a court and Worms was a city. But ours wasn't. It was wormy rice and you could eat it or not. After all, that was the only fresh meat we had. But you know when you're really hungry, really hungry, you'll eat what's put before you. Enough.
ERICKSEN: So going back to the process of repatriation.
PHILIPS: I must add to that. I just thought after I stopped. We were on that ship for one month, you see. Why did it take so long? Well, of course, the seas are all mined during the war. And troop ships have mine sweepers but we didn't. We went from Shanghai down to Hong Kong across to San Fernando in the Philippines Islands, back and up the str...up the Mekong River to Saigon, down and through the straits by Java and over to Marmagao, a Portugese port on the west coast of India. We had to transship at a Portugese port. But with no mine sweeper we had to travel on untraveled routes and it was, well, it was a solid month. When we got there the American medical authorities said we were the largest group with the most emaciated looking Americans they'd ever seen. And they probably saw worse since but we were...we were a sight to behold. And then we got on to the...the Gripsholm. It...it wasn't there when we got there but the next day it came in around the rocks, docked in front of us. The Japanese sang their national anthem and then somebody on that ship began to sing God Bless America. We couldn't believe our ears. We'd never heard it before. It was a new song to us, but somebody was singing for us. Well, it seems when the ship was ready to start...to sail from New York they were short of crew and they sent out an abbeal...an appeal for boys not in any branch of the service to come out and help to bring us home in safety. And there was a little group of American boys plus the ship's crew singing for us. Now we were on a high ship...a high deck here. Our kids would crowd as far forward. You know they would. They always want to be where the action is. When the music died away they called to these fellows down there, "What you got to eat on your ship?" Oh, we heard a list of things we hadn't allowed ourselves to think about for a long time. You know, when you're a little hungry you talk about food. When you get more hungry you don't talk about it but you think about it. But when you get really hungry you don't let yourself think about it. It brings on those awful hunger pangs. And you know these folks made a horrible mistake. They said to our kids, "What do you want to eat?" [Ericksen laughs] They got the same flourish back...same letters...words back with a few flourishes added. And then those extravagant Americans began to throw fruit and try to get it up on the deck to us. Some of it did land on the deck but some of it went into the sea. It was awfully hard to see that wasted. Well, finally the...we stayed on that ship for three days while they stowed the Red Cross parcels in the hold of the ship. The previous exchange had taken place in Madagascar. When they got the Japanese on board, away they went they left all the Red Cross parcels there. We had never seen one. Of course, there's special food [pauses]...(what do I want to say?)...anyway very special food for nourishment and special clothing and things of that sort. But we didn't get anything of that sort. So we stayed until there were ho...stored in the hold of the ship. [clears throat] So the folks we had left behind would have Red Cross parcels. And then we came out of this port over this way. [clears throat] The Japanese came out over this way on account of you didn't see who you were exchanged for. It was just the total number. And when we got onto the ship we were on the low deck now and they were up here. The few Christians (remember the...the whole crowd was largely anything but Christian)...but the few Christians got together even though the Japanese were here and we were there. Together we sang "In Christ there is no east or west" and "Jesus shall reign where 'ere the sun that his successive journeys run." You know, there was a real fellowship even though we're enemies during the war, we're one in Christ. [clears throat] Then somebody up here [on another deck?] said, "When you get back to Washington, won't you see what you can do so the next group of Japanese can have their Bibles. There's not a Bible on this ship." And we couldn't understand why the Americans had taken them and they didn't know either. [pauses] Well, it seems when they...our Bibles, when we were to...coming out, our Bibles were inspected. Anything that had any marks in it was confiscated. Of course, you see you could send any sort of word by underline here and underline there. So all of our Bibles we'd (by the way, have you anybody...do you know any Bibles that you've study that don't have marks in them?)...and so all the Bibles that we'd been studying were taken. I happened to have a cheaper Revised Version that was...had my fla...lame...name halfway down the flyleaf and they tore that out and let me have it so I had the Bible. So the...when the Japanese were inspecting...Americans were inspecting Japanese Bibles somebody was quick enough to spot a Japanese code book that was passing for a Bible. Oh, who knows how many more there are? So they called in all the Japanese Bibles. The American Bible Society offered a new Japanese Bible for everyone on board but those in charge of propaganda said, "No, the Americans took our Bibles." And they didn't know why. We could have lost ours the same way. I went out one day on deck and here sat a missionary, quotation marks around her, who had a complete works of Shakespear around which she had put a Bible cover. If the Japanese had discovered that they wouldn't have known what it was. They'd have just known that it was not a Bible. And we could all have lost ours the same way. Really doesn't pay to kick over the traces, does it? So that was the...the main part of it. Oh yes, we traveled then our first...yeah, we set sail. Before we did that we got our first meal on the Gripsholm. And I had forgotten how white bre...how white white bread could be. I saw that and I thought, "Oh, surely they wouldn't be serving us angel food cake this early would they?" [clears throat] We'd had white bread in China when we were first interned. They asked us if we would like to have flour or rice and our folks chose flour. So we were able to have bread. They built their own big ovens and we had bread all the time. One day in Chefoo I saw a hand pulled cart loaded with bags of flour and the label was "Good Earth." We decided they'd put quite a bit of it in the flour. That's the reason the bread was as dark as it was. But we throughly enjoyed and had our diet carefully supervised and the government sent vitamin pills, all of those things for us. Then we set sail and I don't remember how far we went but we got our first mail in two years. It's something in catching up with folks at home when two years of war. But that was the first mail and we caught up a bit. And then our next port of call was Port Elizabeth in South Africa. We were allowed to go ashore a part of...parts of two days. We'd been fed now for two weeks. We looked better. People would say to us, "Are you off the ship?" They didn't need to ask us. We'd say, "Yes." "Well, we've been praying for you." What a bond there is in...among Christians even though they didn't know us or anything about us. Well, then our next port was, as I told you, Rio de Janeiro and then New York. As we were going up the Hudson River everybody was out peering into the fog for the Statue of Liberty. And somebody said, "Oh, we passed it during the night." We were disappointed but all of a sudden somebody said, "Statue of Liberty!" And everybody ran over to that side of the ship to see it. And we saw her standing there with her light to welcome us all. It was quite an experience. Well, now before this they had given us pages of questions to fill out and answer these questions so it would speed up our disembarking. And when we...after we got into the river here we'd see ferries and so on, all of them signaling to us, waving and calling welcome to us as we came up the river. And we docked, I think it was nine o'clock in the morning, and they started taking people off the boat. Of course, they were checking over our sets of questions. And I came down the line and they said, "Will you go back into that corridor for special questioning." I thought, "What in the world have I done to have special questioning?" There was a couple...dare I say? a couple of Puerto Rican's on board who had openly boasted that they'd been the leaders of a ring of pick pockets when they were in New York and they went off without anybody paying any attention to them and I was sent back for special questioning. I got back into this corridor and here were all our children all sent back for special questioning. If I'd been off the children would have been here alone. Well, the only question they wanted to ask the children was, "Why are you traveling without your parents?" Well, that was no problem. They could have asked that at anytime. But we were back there and the hours went by. I had one girl that was developing epilepsy, had these little petite mall seizures. And with all the pressure of that she had the worst one I had ever seen her have. I almost despaired of ever getting her out of it. If those children had been alone what would it have been? It was the Lord's mercy. Oh, the reason I was sent back for special questioning...maybe somebody asked me a question at the wrong time. I don't know. But I have failed to answer a question: "Have you ever been in ploy...in the employ of any other government?" Well, that's enough to put a curse on anybody, isn't it? [laughs] So I was sent back for special questioning, but that put me there when I was needed. And finally as everybody else got off, then they came and took us special questioning people and took us through. And I finally got off the ship with the last child at 7:30. That had been a long day. And we got over...oh yes, I should say this. I don't know if he'll ever hear it. But one of the men from another mission had asked could he do anything to help me. And I had said, "Well, if you wouldn't mind taking my girls, one another as they come off, and just keeping them as a unit till I get there. Well, then I got off with the last one and he had helped us all the way through. He had sent his wife and children on to a hotel room until then. Well, we got over to where our mission people were, talked for a moment and then somebody said, "By the way, your brother is over there." I had a brother who was a doctor in Massachusetts and he and his wife had been waiting there all day for us. And, of course, thinking I could go right home, but I couldn't. I had to take these children out to Philadelphia to headquarters. And we kept them together so I took them out and parked them and the next day went back. And then quick took a...a hurried flight, look over New York City to see what...what they wanted us to see and then we went up to Worcester, Massachusetts, to their home. And they kept me there for three months before I went on home. I really needed some building up. But that was our whole debarkation and then when I was finished there I was ready to go home. I...I did tell you about the two Phillips children, didn't I, with a double L?
ERICKSEN: That was before we were recording the first interview so maybe you could retell that.
PHILIPS: Oh, well there were among...among our children two Phillips children (two Ls in their name and mine has only one), so when the Japanese typed up the prison ship list my name would come first and they'd look down there and two children with two Ls, they'd roll the thing back in the typewriter, put another L in my name and donate me the two children. So they were mine all the way around the world. Now they stayed in Philadelphia while I was up in Massachusetts. When I was ready to go I told the mission I was ready and they said, "Well, the Phillips children's parents have come. They're at home in Portland, Oregon. Would you take them home?" So I was to take them home [laughs] and Kathryn came down with the mumps the day we were to leave, mumps again. But so it went. Well, finally I waited and visited elsewhere until she recovered and then took them on out home and they met their folks. But that was really what happened all the way. All of our children eventually got together with their parents. But they were kept as a unit at...in Philadelphia. They'd go out to various schools but they'd come back at night and be with others who'd been through the same strains that we had. And so it was. It was good for them. Anybody else wouldn't have understood it.
PHILIPS: And I never had any dream of anything but going back to China. And I was trying to get ready and it took a long time to regain health. I'd build up a bit, then down again and so on. And finally I felt I was ready so I had to do something to prove that I wouldn't crack up under pressure. So I taught at the university [University of Washington] for a couple of years.
ERICKSEN: Of Washington?
PHILIPS: In Seattle. No pressure there, of course. And during that time the mission told me that in going back to China I might go to the tribes down in Yunnan west China.
ERICKSEN: Now this is CIM?
PHILIPS: That's right. And so I heard about a group teaching linguistics, the basic principles. Why that was Wycliffe, of course. So I studied with Wycliffe [Bible Translators] for China. Everybody knew I wasn't going to work with them. And everything was all set, the sailing date, and two weeks before the sailing date the China [claps hands] door closed. And that was a bitter pill. And the ene...
ERICKSEN: Now had you...? I'm sorry, go ahead. I'll...I'll pick it up.
PHILIPS: I was going to say the enemy [the devil] said, "You're finished now. What about this live you said you're going to spend in China? The Lord's through with you, put you on the shelf" and so on. I finally recognized the source of it and I said, "Well, Lord I thought it was China but what I've done is give myself to You. Now what do You want?" Now do you want to ask your question?
ERICKSEN: Forgotten what it is already.
PHILIPS: Oh. Well, anyway when I said, "Now what do You want?" He indicated Mexico and I thought, "Mexico. That's not much of a mission field. They're just our next door neighbors. But our next door neighbors are our mission field. Then I thought they all talk Spanish down there, don't they, but I don't know any Spanish. Of course, I might learn it. But you know when we went down to Mexico the government of Mexico told us they had fifty tribes of Indians with nothing in writing. That meant we'd have to do fifty New Testaments and we undertook it. Today we have something more than sixty-four New Testaments done in Mexico alone. We're in about a hundred twenty more languages and there're still twenty-five or thirty we haven't been able to get into. "What are you doing? Making up languages?" They were there all the time. The government just didn't know how many there were. But to get back, the first year I went on a purely loan basis with Wycliffe...
PHILIPS: ...expecting that China would reopen. That was 1950 that I went with Wycliffe. It hasn't opened yet. Isn't it a good thing I didn't sit and twiddle my thumbs. It's so easy to just wait and sometimes...sometimes the Lord says "Wait" and sometimes He doesn't. So I've been with Wycliffe now since 1950.
ERICKSEN: Now what was your status with CIM during that interim period?
PHILIPS: That was the point they were getting their people out of the field...
PHILIPS: ...off the field and deciding what to do next. Th....
ERICKSEN: Were you still a registered CIM member?
PHILIPS: I was still a CIM'er until that time.
ERICKSEN: Until 1950?
PHILIPS: '49. And '49 when I got the word it was too late to go back and take the second course of Wycliffe, so I filled in at another gap and something else and then went back and took the 1950 course and went onto the field.
ERICKSEN: How did the process of joining Wycliffe compare and contrast with joining CIM?
PHILIPS: Well, I think if I had been a beginner it would have been much the same. But they already knew me now. I'd worked with them for China. They already knew me and they...and I knew the background. I had to...I had to get the orientation angle same as elsewhere to know what Wycliffe did. But it was...well, as I wrote letters from Mexico, China friends wrote how much like Mexico...Mexico...how much like China Mexico sounds. And then I suddenly realized the rest were going through culture shock and it was much like just stepping right in to the same thing that we'd been before. But it was altogether different, too.
ERICKSEN: How long was the period of time that it took you to decide to go to Mexico with Wycliffe?
PHILIPS: It wasn't very long. I had...see, I'd had the first year of...of Wycliffe and was already to go and I couldn't get out to...go back to China and so I thought, "Well, this is something I can do for...for the interim." So we put that before...before Wycliffe, told them the whole setup and went down there for the first year. And then since during that time I just was assured that that's what the Lord wanted me to do and so I went into it full time.
ERICKSEN: Now were you with (what was it?) the Zapoteco Indians? Is that how you pronounce it?
PHILIPS: Zapoteco. Z-A-P-O-T-E-C-O.
ERICKSEN: Were you with them that first year?
PHILIPS: I was with...with another branch of them the first year in...in the little town of Mitla. And then the second year I went to another. Let's see, I filled another gap in another tribe for a little while. I think that's when I went to the Otame [sp?] Indians in Tasquillo and was there filling a gap. You see, they don't send one along. And then....
ERICKSEN: Since you were accompanying someone else...
ERICKSEN: ...is that right?
PHILIPS: I was accompanying someone who'd already started the work there. I was keeping her company and then I think just after that.... Sorry.
ERICKSEN: That's all right.
PHILIPS: The very next year I went right out to our own tribe among the Zapotecs.
ERICKSEN: And was there someone else with you then?
PHILIPS: Yes. There was another...we were both new at...at the tribe at that time.
ERICKSEN: And how was it decided that you would to work with that group of Indians?
PHILIPS: Well, I think [pauses]...I was floating and Inez was floating and they just put us together.
PHILIPS: So we didn't...they do more as a rule, seeking to find out just where and so on. But this happened to be...the people who had been there before had been put on headquarters staff and had to spend much time away from the tribe and he finally had said, "If you'll send somebody else to take on this tribe, I'll do it. If not I'll take no more of those jobs." And he has been used in...in an official position so often. And so they sent us out to fill there and then we were with them a little while. [laughs] This is suddenly [sic] a map of Mexico in case you don't see it [paper rustles as Philips pulls out map] but we got out to this village. We wanted to get here but we couldn't because this one and this one were at war. Instead of fighting this way they were fighting this way right around our house. So we stayed over here for three months teaching reading. We could trust what we were reading because these folks had translated it and had a primer. Well, it's written distinctly phonetically and as soon as we knew what those letters said we could pronounce it and we could teach reading. Well, finally the folks over hear came over and said, "Come on over. The war's over." So we moved over. The first night we were there an older women came to the door with a couple of young teenagers. She said, "I want you to teach us...teach these children to read." We offered her a book the same time we offered it to them. And she said, "I can't read. I've got a head like a donkey." What she meant was perfectly true. She'd had just a much schooling as that donkey. She would never take a book. She brought the children every night to read. She'd never take a book. She had done a work in...in the field, a day's work. The field was down the mountainside. And you know, when you come in and sit down after a day's work in the field what's likely to happen. She looked like she was asleep and when she snored we thought she was. She wasn't paying one bit of attention. The kids were reading along and all of a sudden she'd say, "Stop. You didn't say that word right." And she'd tell them the next word in the book. She'd never heard it, she'd never seen it. We felt that must be an awfully good translation for her to be able to supply that next word when they put in a wrong word. And that we thought was an encouragement because one day she would understand enough that she'd come to know the Lord and then she'd have an incentive to learn to read. We were away that summer. When we got back that fall we found out that she had died. We haven't any idea if she ever heard enough to come to know the Lord. We just don't know. But that's one of the things that makes us feel we must hurry. The time is short. So many of them are passing on.
PHILIPS: Well, now back to this warfare. [Philips apparently taps on map] This was stopped. One day about the second or third night we were there some folks from this village [taps map] hid around the corner of the house where we were living and shot down here. And the war was on again. They were notoriously poor shots. Almost nobody got hit. But you know you kid...could step in front of one of those bullets and stop it. So it was a pretty strenuous situation. But there are wars all around we don't know anything about here. Just fighting going on everywhere.
ERICKSEN: Can you tell me a little bit about the...the Indians?
PHILIPS: Yes. That Zapotec language I think was spoken by seventy to seventy-five thousand people and....
ERICKSEN: What part of Mexico is...is...was this in?
PHILIPS: Do you know...well, Oaxaca city is about three hundred miles or more south of Mexico City. And then we were seventy-five miles back in the mountains from there. I had a jeep. The first year we went by animal, and then I got the jeep. In dry weather, with the trails in the best possible condition, you might make that seventy-five miles in eight to ten hours. It has taken us three days. You see [laughs] there are not much roads and it's rugged going, but we were glad we could go that way instead of on a truck and animals and so on. But it was...it was rugged going but a priceless privilege to be there knowing that that's Lord wanted us. Well, some of them would come and they're very...very great drinkers and our landlord would drink. The market town was an hours walk across the mountain from us and he would go to market once a week (about every time market was open) and he'd generally come home (should I say three sheets to the wind?) Thoroughly inebriated, sometimes had to be let, led home. But why sure. That was perfectly alright. They saw nothing wrong with it. It was just their custom. So there was a lot of drinking. He had a grown daughter who was a seamstress. She sewed on a treadle Singer sewing machine that had been carried out to the mountains on human backs. But she...she did sew and actually she made me a Zapotec costume which was all embroidered and the top was to have, well, sort of orange colored and gold. Not exactly the colors we would choose. And I suggested that some blue and green and red, the colors.... She said, "Don't you want a Zapotec costume?" "Yes." So I had to let her put in those colors and then she put the other colors on the bottom of the skirt. But it had to be [laughs]...it had to be those colors. It didn't seem right to me, but that was a Zapotec costume. Well, she was...and then there was a grown son. I don't know what he did. He was not around very often. And the house that we lived in was to be his house. Well, we were there for [pauses] I guess the most of five years before there was any moving and then by this time I was sent home for home assignment and my partner was living with somebody else over in the other town, had another partner. But they were...they were a very friendly people. [laughs] They were very giving people. They would bring you gifts. Of course, you had to give...give them something of equal value. So it was quite interesting. We would send one of them over to buy our groceries, an hours walk across the mountains, and we would tell them that we wanted green bananas not black ones. Well, they liked them just so ripe that they were turning black. And they would bring them that way and we didn't like them that way so we'd make banana bread out of them. And they liked the banana bread so they kept bringing us that kind of bananas. And then we had a fruit that they called the sapote [sp?]. I don't suppose you're acquainted with it. It's relative of the persimmon but the outside of it when it's ripe is dark green and the inside is, well, we'd say black. You probably will know what it's like more when I tell you it's very, very sweet and you put a bit of orange with it or something like that to cut the sweet and give it some flavor. It's delicious but some of our men have called it the axle grease fruit. It looks like about the consistency and the color or axle grease but it's call the black sapote. Well, they brought us those and they brought us those, so we finally made sapote bread, the recipe of the black...of banana bread and they liked that. Well, then they had a...a melon. They call it chilicayote [sp?] that was...well, it...it looked like a squash, a cross between a squash and a watermelon without the good characteristics of each. And they would chop it up with a machete, put it into a big pot and boil it with brown sugar. And when you'd go calling they'd bring you a big bowl like that of that drink. And you had to take it for everybody you visited. It limited the number of calls you could make in one afternoon. But you would drink some of it until you got to the point you'd get a bit of shell that you could use for a spoon and label...ladle the rest of it out. And so we were limited in the number of calls we could take...make because you didn't dare refuse to drink it for this one if you had for that one. Well, they decided we liked it and they started bringing us pots of it and we didn't particularly enjoy it but you couldn't throw it away. And finally they decided to bring us the melons and let us cook our own. What a relief that was. We would chop it up and start sauteing with salt. It made a delicious vegetable. But when you have that vegetable two meals a day, day after day, even that gets monotonous. So finally I said to my partner, "We'll, have to can some of that." We couldn't face anymore of it. "Well, what will we do with it?" I said, "I don't know but they'll at least see we didn't waste it." So we had some little mason jars and we canned several pints of it and they could see that we had saved it. Well, I told you about our banana bread and our sapote bread. And now Christmas was approaching and we helped this town, forty minutes across the mountain, prepare a Christmas program. And they said they'd bring it over to our village. They had to get permission from the town president to do it, but it was going to be held there. And we knew... "Oh, there'll have to be refreshments." [pauses] And now we could go to the mou...to the markets in the city about once in six months. And we had to figure, "Now how many tins of this will we use and how many tins of that?" And as soon as we'd opened a tin they wanted it so rather than just give them...let them beg for things, we'd let them carry a load of water. And they'd carry a load of water in...and we'd give them a tin. I told you we had running water. Well that's the way it ran. But we...we would let them have tins for that and finally as we saw Christmas coming, no Styrofoam cups. In fact, I think we had a total of five but you couldn't serve a hundred that way. So we quit letting them have tin cans and they thought we were awfully selfish. They couldn't understand why. Native coffee is grown there and roasted and ground with brown sugar so it's a heavy syrupy mixture. Well, we'd have to serve them coffee and something else. So we made them coffee and put it those tins. And each one had a tin of coffee and had the tin as a souvenir. But we had to have something to serve with it. What could we do? Well, we took that squash we had canned and used that as the base to the receipt for banana bread and made them great big spice cookies. Oh, they enjoyed those and they didn't dream that they were eating their own squash. But [laughs] you'd sort of fit things together anyway. But it was...they...they had nearly a hundred there. And it was quite a job but they had a good time with it.
ERICKSEN: Now what kind of Christmas celebration would they have? Did they have any...what was their religious background?
PHILIPS: They...in...in...they were nominally Catholic but they didn't know what they believed and they would indicate that. But you...you could believe anything, you know, and just say you were Catholic.
ERICKSEN: So they had Christmas traditions?
PHILIPS: Oh, they had Christmas tradition and one thing.... Of course, much of their music was in a minor key. But they had a song, I don't know what it was, but anyway people would go to the inn, what was any home, that was supposed to be the inn, and ask for a place to stay. And then they would sing there was no room in the inn. I don't remember how it went now but would hear that in a minor key, "There's no room, no room." And so they would go all...what they would do when they were celebrating that, they'd would go up the hill singing at this house and they'd say "No room," and then they'd drink themselves drunk and then go on to the next house and that would go on the whole time. So it was good when they had a...a church Christmas program and it gave them something of an idea, some of the things that they didn't know at all. But [pauses]...well now, let me change the subject a bit. People in this country say, "Well, all our Indians talk English," which they don't. I was up in Canada a couple years ago and we went out...a few years ago, we went out a few miles west of Calgary to the Stoney [sp?] Indians. Now the translator wasn't there but his two Stoney Indian helpers were. And this friend took me out and we sat and talked with them for a couple of hours in English, no problem at all. But when Lillian had helped with the translation of the story of the resurrection, she'd read it many times in English but she translated into her language and read it back and she said, "Oh, is He alive?" She knew she read that they'd put Him in the tomb but she had never taken in the fact that the Lord came out of the tomb until she read it back in her own language after she'd put it in there, translated it. But that's the way so many of our people don't understand English. Well, now suppose...did you study any French in school?
PHILIPS: What language did you study?
PHILIPS: German. Alright. Well, suppose I came and gave you a Gospel. Have you kept up on your German?
PHILIPS: Well, if I came and gave you a gospel message in German you wouldn't get much would you?
PHILIPS: Well, that's just it. If we're going to get anything out of it we've got to keep it up. And they simply...they say yes to things and they don't understand it at all. And there are so many cases we've have of that but that one particularly interested me. "Is He alive?" My how we need to know those things to be true.
ERICKSEN: What was the belief system of the Indians like? You said they free to believe just about anything. What did they believe?
PHILIPS: They believed it was very nice to drink poke [sp?] and get [laughs] deadly drunk. I don't know what they believed. Of course, they believed the Virgin of Guadalupe, because that's the...the patron saint of...of Mexico, but then they have various saints. When...well, to go back into Mexican history. We'll come back to this in a minute. When the...the Spaniards came in to the little town of Mitla, the town of...town of "souls," when they came to that little town they had beautiful temples on the hillside. They ruined those temples and right down in the center of the town they built a little wooden church and demanded that the Indians worship there. They never had and they wouldn't. The Spaniards were not going to be defeated. They finally tore that down and built it on top of the ruins up here. Wasn't it nice of those Spaniards to build us a church? They went in it and worshiped and now all their gods had saints' names. Saint so-and-so and saint so-and-so and saint so-and-so. They still worshiped the sun god, the wind god, the in...[pauses]...what I want to say? the...the rain god and the wind god is what I'm trying to get out. All these various ones. They worshiped them but they were saint so-and-so. And certain gods...saints that were responsible for animals. There was one they...all the animals that had white on their, well, take Holstein cattle for instance...pictures painted on...in the white spots. That was supposed to call the...the attention, I think it was Saint Jeronimo [Spanish for Saint Jerome], I'm not sure, that was supposed to take interest in those animals and pre...protect them for the year. It was just a hodgepodge so I can't tell you what they believed. They had...they had one place over here was the cave where the sun sleeps and the sun would sleep there at the night theoretically. But they had their various witchcraft things in there. They never showed it to foreigners but they did to one and some had seen it and knew a little bit about it. But the cave were the sun sleeps and a place of worship, spirit worship...as...as I said, it was just a hodgepodge of these things.
ERICKSEN: Were they...were they animists?
PHILIPS: No, I don't...I don't know of any of them who were animists. In some places they are but in this particular area I don't know of any that were.
ERICKSEN: What about...did they have any concept of eternal life, life after death?
PHILIPS: Again I'll say a hodgepodge. Something of it but there was no...no logic to it. By the way have you read the...Don Richardson book Eternity in Their Hearts? If not you should.
ERICKSEN: I've read Peace Child. I don't know if I've read the second one.
PHILIPS: Well, he...he goes back...Peace Child is quite...Peach Child and then Lords of the Earth and then Eternity in Their Hearts.
ERICKSEN: No, I haven't.
PHILIPS: And I understand he has still another one. But Eternity in Their Hearts, he has been researching various countries. Anthropologists who are researching now instead of just saying as they used to do, "Oh, you go to these people and you just ruin all their beautiful culture," backing evolution, of course. Now they're finding, evolutionists...anthropologists are finding as they go further back into the culture, like Paul said, "Everybody has had light." [paraphrase of Romans 1:20] And you'll find in every place when you go far enough back they all have the tradition of Noah and the flood. Well, of course they said. They're all descendants of Noah, aren't they? But in some of the places you find...and as he started in that book he started with the Asian groups and he spoke of (at the moment I can't tell you the names of them) characters known from history who used to teach them about the sky god and so on. And then he came clear over here to Ecuador and named characters again that we know from history whose name I have missed at the present time. But he was able to teach his people about the sky god and so on and many of those tribes will say, "Yes, our ancestors new him. They had a book that told about him, but they were careless. Some of them, well they...they...they were careless and the book got torn up, or maybe the dogs ate it or it got into the fire or something and now we're hunting for that book." It isn't any wonder then when they begin to get the truth, if they'd been one of that group, they...they recognized that this is really the...what they call the sky god and it fits in and you find a hunger. We found such a reception among the Quichua Indians in...in Ecuador and some of the others. Now I'm talking about areas that I don't really know....
PHILIPS: ...there what I have heard but that book is...is a good one to read.
ERICKSEN: Now did the...the Indians you worked with have any of those [pauses] concepts that...?
PHILIPS: Not anything as striking as that.
PHILIPS: Of course they had had heavy Mexican [pauses or Spanish...Spanish background and it was all overlaid with that. And we didn't...you'd possibly have had to be there more years than that to be able to get some of those deeper backgrounds.
ERICKSEN: Okay. What...when you first went to open the work where you were stationed [in Mexico], what was the first thing you would do?
PHILIPS: Well, you have to start out by getting words. But how do you do it? You can't say, "How do you say?" You've got to find out how they do it. Possibly sign language or something to get them to say something. And then you write it down with phonetic script. And then, from that point, you get more...more words. You get several hundred or a few thousand, spread them all out before you, and you solve an alphabet with scientific procedure. By the time you get that puzzle solved, and it's a fascinating puzzle, you've an alphabet that'll express every sound in that language. And then you figure out the grammar and then you prepare. You see, they can tell you how to say things, they can't tell you how...they can't tell you why. And you've got to figure out the rules. And then you prepare primers and teach them to read it. And somebody has to draw pictures for those things. So we have a need of artists to draw the pictures in the primers. I've had to draw some and I'm not an artist. It takes me hours to make it look like something. But some people just with a few strokes, it's...it's done. But they need the primers and the pictures. And then somebody has to teach them to read. Somebody said, "Well, so why do you translate the Bible for 'em? They can't read it, can they?" No they can't. They've never had anything they could read. You've got to teach 'em to read, and then let them read it. And by the way, the thrill of a lifetime is when you put something into their language, and they read it back and they say, "Oh, that's like God talking right to me." But that's what His Word is, isn't it? And it's thrilling when they..when the translation is good enough that they'll say that.
PHILIPS: But it's the...the different approach in different countries is so striking. For instance, I've had a chance to be...after being home aside, to be in various countries. I'm thinking right now of a situation among the aborigines of Australia. And you remember they're dark a people. They're not Negro, they're Melanesian. And they spend their time on what they call a walkabout, going from one water hole to another and in a years time they're back here near this one. Maybe it's dried up by that time but they're back near it. But the...the mission station that I was visiting there, they know at this time there'll be aborigines somewhere out in this vast area of bush. They go out with a truck to invite them to come back and live at the native camp so they can teach them. Sometimes they get on the truck and start out but they believe the same thing our ancestors used to, you know: the earth is flat; you come to the edge you'll fall off. So they get off the truck and go back to the walkabout. They know that's safe. But one year up here on the walkabout an old chief had a dream. And in his dream a man stood by him and said, "Someday a white man is coming. I hear a man with a white skin. He has a book. That book tells all about me. You believe it. It's true." Wasn't it gracious of the Lord to give him that preparation. Well, next morning the old chief was thinking about it. He thought, "How would I ever get that book? No white man ever comes out here. We spend our time on our walkabout. And I never go anywhere else. How would I get it?" So he selected five or six of his young men, strong husky young upper teenagers, and he commissioned them, "You go out, meet the white man, get the white men's book, get the message, and come back and teach us. We'll go on on our walkabout, be gone a whole year, but just at the end of the year when the moon's up there somewhere we'll be near this water hole. And we'll burn our signal fires for so many nights." (I think it's ten.) "We'll burn our signal fires so you can find us and if you don't come then we'll be gone another whole year. So you get the message and come back." The boys went out glad to be free. These folks went, came back and burned their signal fires, nothing happened. Went again and the boys didn't come. And continued it was just about twenty years and they had not come. And this year the old chief's getting quite frail. He said to them, "This is too hard a life. I'll never be able to make this journey again. If those boys don't come this year I'll never get the message." He's coming up here to burn the signal fires. Over here at the mission station and it was time to go, they started out with a truck and had a break down. No service stations, nobody to help them, but they worked feverishly. They had just so much time. They got it finished and started...we might say they took...took a wrong turn. (There aren't any turns, there aren't any roads, dry sand and bush.) But they had a radio in the truck and that night he radioed back to base. He said, "Bob, I don't know what's happened. I'm lost out here. I've never seen this area before and I've not seen a...a person. What shall I do? Wait there's a signal fire. I'll call you back" So he built the signal fire and they got together. This was the old chief's group. It was the last night he was going to burn the signal fire of this last journey he'd ever be able to take. God's clock was perfectly timed. With a radius of fifty miles they could have been anywhere but He brought the truck right over there. The old chief got onto the truck and went back and Bob went out and started asking questions. But he was just learning the language. Part of it he just couldn't understand, so he said to the old fellow, "You wait here. I'll go to the native camp and get somebody to interpret for us." The old fellow sat on the ground and waited. Bob went away, pretty soon came back with the young aborigine in a nice bright colored jacket (they like bright colors as well as we do). The young fellow took one look at the old chief and turned his back to him, sat down with his back to him, wouldn't look at him anymore. The old man told his story and the young fellow faithfully interpreted. Bob knew enough of the language to know he was getting it correctly. And finally when the story was finished he turned to the old man and said, "I wonder whatever became of those young men you sent out, that they never came back. Have you any idea what became of them?" The old chief said, "That's one of them." No wonder he couldn't take a second look. He recognized the man who'd given him a commission. He got out, he met the white man, he got the book, he got the message, found the government would feed him and clothe him. Why should he bother to go back? That's the reason I didn't hear the rest of the story of Eternity in Their Hearts. When I heard a part of it I went down that rabbit track and this story. When I was there this old man was at the...at the camp and he was sitting under a tree. They never build houses. They...they don't stay in a place long enough for a house. But he was there, not yet saved. A bit later...a bit ago I wrote to Bob, who is now retired in this country, and asked him what had happened. He said, "Well, he went down to that camp one time," after I was there, "with a poster that had a white heart and a black heart." And he was talking to the old man explaining it. And the old man said, "I want that white heart." And he was saved that night and for some years he was able to talk to the young aborigines who came in to help them to understand those things. He was a real help. He's with the Lord now. But it's interesting to follow though and see what...what it made.
ERICKSEN: Let's go back to Mexico. How long where you [pauses] working with the Zapotec Indians?
PHILIPS: Well, I was....
ERICKSEN: You started in 1950.
PHILIPS: Yes, that was [laughs] shall I say the worst time physically I'd had. I had surgery and I had pneumonia, out of the tribe quite a time. I think probably I was in that tribe most of four years, but that was all because of the other breaks. And then the last year I was there I helped in still another section. But I was about six years in Mexico. They have their entire New Testament now. And this partner that I was with has another partner now and she's working in another one of the dialects. And somebody was telling me just a day or so that she had finished that second New Testament. [pauses] We don't do different dialects if they are intelligible usually, but if they are mutually unintelligible then each one needs a...a translation so he can get the Word himself.
ERICKSEN: Now when the two of you would be living in the town with the Indians...
ERICKSEN: ...and you'd be working on learning the vocabulary and trying to figure out the rules for the grammar, did you have any sort of religious meetings?
PHILIPS: We had some because this other couple who had started us out at first...
PHILIPS: ...had...shall I say had the basis for a church. Don't think a big church or anything like that, but there were some who were believers, and so the work had been started. Now that was forty minutes across the mountain from us and we didn't get over too often. We did get to hear from some of them. But the...the object that we have, I think you know, we don't start churches.
PHILIPS: We don't need to. It's theirs. And when we get...by the time our...our language helper has studied a bit he's likely to be saved before we get a Gospel done. And then he's anxious to tell others what he's learned and he spreads that and pretty soon there are a group of them and they see the need of starting a church and they start it. And it's theirs. We don't tell 'em what to do. We let them do it. I think of one church in Mexico. That had...they had a hymn book, I don't know, fifteen or twenty hymns. But when they started their service they sang every word of every verse of every hymn, didn't miss any of it. Well, it was the Lord's Day. They had all day for the service. And so we [laughs] didn't tell them they should sing one or two hymns or anything like that. But they would get into the Word then. It was just...if they spent an hour or so on the hymns that was nothing. They had several hours to go.
ERICKSEN: Yeah. Now you mentioned that you then were home assigned. That would be about 1956? And what...that was because of your health that you were home assigned?
PHILIPS: No, I had been...I had been through that and it was really time for furlough.
PHILIPS: And so I had a couple months off and then they sent me out on the road doing deputation. And I [laughs] was on deputation for seventeen plus years. That's a long assignment but because of that I got to Guatemala, Ecuador, Peru, Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, and then the West African countries. So I had a chance of seeing it in those places...
PHILIPS: ...and went, when I went to Australia they sent me right up to New Guinea. Most of our Australian workers are not yet going on furlough. And I would visit as many as I could, get pictures, get slides. I'd go to this church in Australia, "Do you know so-and-so?" "Yes, this is what's she's doing. I visited her in her tribe," show them pictures of them and so on. So it made it much more valuable to have been to those places. And when I would come to a missions conference in this country to represent Wycliffe, "Well, what country would you like me to represent? One of the Latin American countries, one of the African countries or something like that?" And, of course, it gave them more variety in...in [pauses]...well, in representation. So that was why I was on the road for...part of why I was on it for long.
PHILIPS: But it's a real privilege to do deputation. And deputation, of course, you know is not, "Come on, how about money," but it is telling them what's going on. And it's amazing how many people had no idea...well, still many people have no idea of the number of tribes that have no way of getting the gospel yet. And the only way is to get...get it in their language. And [laughs] I might add this. You'd be amazed even in the South of our country, the so called Bible Belt, how many places I've been people have said, "You're the first real live missionary we've ever seen." It seems impossible but so many churches, "Yeah, we're missionary minded, we drop some money in the collection plate," but they haven't any idea what happens with it. And so it really is worthwhile. Any time I get a change I love to tell people about what's going on and what the needs are. And, of course, one of the things that we're emphasizing right now we know of at three thousand tribes still waiting. And we're putting that need before people and it's interesting to me how many respond. Several years ago a friend of mine was at headquarters and she saw a name of...of various tribes of Africa and some of them are unpronounceable names to us but this one was spelled I-Z-I. "Oh," she said, "that'll be easy." So she started praying for the easy tribe. Well, the stress should be on the second syllable: E-Z. But she started praying for them that the Lord would send somebody to work there. And I didn't know anything about that but in '66 I was in Nigeria and I visited in that tribe a couple...a....a Swiss couple were working there and getting quite a work, it was a very, very interesting trip. But I didn't know anything about her praying for it at all. Well, about three years ago she was in Switzerland and she met Paul, this young man who had been working there who had the entire Izi New Testament putting it in the hands of printers. Can you imagine what a thrill it was to her to think that she'd been a part by prayer in that even though she was working in another country. And so we're stressing that. And I've had a number of folks signing up. I've been working with B.M.A., Bible Memory Association. When you're retired, you know, you can take on other things and for several years I've taught all summer at Bible Memory Association Camps. And this year instead of taking it all in one camp, I had twos week in Louisiana, two weeks in Georgia, and two weeks in Michigan camp. And I presented these things and different ones signed up to pray for a tribe and we sent the list and addresses out to headquarters and they would send them each one the name of the tribe they were to pray for. A few days ago [pauses] I got a letter for a lady in Indiana who with her son had been in the camp in Michigan. And her son had signed up for a tribe and he had just got the letter now from headquarters telling of a tribe in Nigeria that he was to pray for. And he was so delighted with it. When his dad came home from work he said, "Say, Dad, you know what I've go?" And she...he went to get something. Mother said she thought he'd bring out his new baseball cap. He didn't. It was his name of his tribe he was to pray for. And later that evening when she had a bit of free time [clears throat] she said, "David, I've got a little free time. Would you like us to play a game now?" "No," he said, "I think we'd better pray for my tribe." But it's interesting people are beginning to wake up to the fact that there is a need and they can be a part by prayer. And people who are tied down here at home and can't go at the present time can go by prayer. And it is...I'd don't like to say it this way, it's sort of capturing the imagination. But people see that there is a way they can be a part and it's worthwhile [?].
ERICKSEN: Have you [pauses] during the course of your what turned out to be seventeen years of deputation and now it sounds like you're still associated with Wycliffe....
PHILIPS: Well, I'm officially retired.
PHILIPS: And when you retire you have time enough to do some other things.
ERICKSEN: Have you seen...
PHILIPS: But I do what every comes.
ERICKSEN: ...have you seen changes in North American churches and their attitudes towards missions?
PHILIPS: Very definitely in some of them and some of them it's still something a way off there. That's way we need to emphasize and in...in B.M.A. has put in a missions course that they have each child or each person at camp studies...their lessons are based on the verses that they have memorized. But they take one period from there and come to me for missions. And we try to help them see that it's missions is here at home or out there. Missions may be your next door neighbor. It may be those in your own family. That once sent a missionary is sent to whoever, to whatever and as they begin to see that it's possible for them to get interested. And, of course, if you haven't been interested in others when your at home you weren't be...won't be worth anything when you get on the field if you can't witness to them. So we're trying to emphasize that. And some churches are taking it up but some of them have been staid for a long time. They're not too interested in it. And it's discouraging that we can't just stir them right up but really what is going to stir them up is the Word of God and to realize that our proof of our love for the Lord is our walk of obedience. And when He said, "All the world," [Mark 16:15] well, we can go to all the world by some of these things or He may send clear out there but it's a matter of obedience. And so the important thing is to...to reach people with that. We don't to...I don't want to go to anybody and tell them, "God want's you to go as a translator." That would be my responsibility and I couldn't take it. But if God lays it on their heart, I can present the work and tell them what's to be done but if God lays it on their heart to go they go in obedience to Him and they'll get the work done. That's kind of getting a long way around but that's what I think it needs to be. I can't call anybody to do it. I can tell them about it and let them go.
ERICKSEN: When you first were given your home assignment was there any anticipation either on your part or the mission's part that it would be as long as it turned out to be? What was the plan? Do you know?
PHILIPS: I went for a day to begin with and it grew and it grew and they just kept me. And the regional man in this area would fill it in and the regional man over here and I just went along as I was told. Well, then they sent me to Australia and....
ERICKSEN: Where were you stationed in this country?
PHILIPS: [laughs] In my car on the road.
PHILIPS: And it was....
ERICKSEN: You went to Australia.
PHILIPS: Yeah. Then I went to Australia [pauses].... What was I going to tell you about? Oh yes, I went for a year. And then they extended to eighteen month. When I left I said to one of the men, "When you expect me back?" And he said, "When we see you coming." But it was better than four years before I got back. And rather an interesting angle, I had a little brother who was in the Sudan and I hadn't seen him for some years. I was in this country and he was there and our furloughs didn't coincide. But now when I was down there in Australia I was going to come back by way of West Africa to see our Wycliffe work there but I was going to spend Christmas with my brother and his family and we had it all planned. And in July of that year I received a letter from New Zealand: "Would I please come back and give them a year of deputation." Well, I had a right to have furlough and I had a right to have Christmas with my family but I felt there was a need. And I wrote my brother about it. He said, "If it's duty, it's duty. We'll be disappointed," but that was it. If I had stood on my rights to have furlough and have family time I'd have been there for the riots. Just a liability, not an asset. I didn't know the language, I didn't know anything. I was so glad the Lord gave that, not any pressure just a very gentle suggestion. But I had a rich year in...in New Zealand. And the Lord's leading just one place [or] another, it's...its very interesting and very strange. On the way back from there going up to Nigeria, that I crossed....crossed Australia, we heard that Nigeria had blown up. One of these coups, you know. And I didn't know if I'd get in but I had the necessary papers so I got in. But coming on a...a cargo ship there were only four passenger places and I was to...supposed to come in February but in December they wrote me and said you'll have to take the January ship. Four people want the... the February one so I had to go a whole month early. Well, that was a whole month ahead in our schedule because to see our tribes in...in Nigeria they were all going to be here in workshop. They wouldn't be out in the tribes and I couldn't see them. So it was decided I had go to Ghana first. So I got the necessary papers to go to Ghana, was waiting at Enugu [in Nigeria] for the scheduled plane and Ghana blew up. That was when Nkrumah [Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, president of Ghana] went out. You know he was...well, they said of him, "Nkrumah shall never die." And one of the pastors in preaching a funeral sermon quoted the verse, "It's appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgement." [Hebrews 9:27] He was thrown into prison. He was talking against Nkrumah. And there are many such sill...silly arrests as that. Well, I was waiting there and Ghana blew up. Well, I thought, "Will I get in?" But I did I have the necessary papers, flew to Accra, waited, take a long time to open the plane door. And when they finally did I was looking around here to see if the folks had come to meet me 'cause I didn't know any of their languages. A fellow behind me muttered into his beard, "This looks grim doesn't it?" Over here was a firing squad of fifteen or twenty men, guns trained on the plane door. Down here lying on the ground on their tummies with their Tommy guns, guns trained on the plane door another set and we were walking off into that. Well, they were determined Nkrumah wasn't come back. But our people, then, I went with and clear up through Ghana. We had two weeks of traveling in all the tribes...tribal locations we could, all the mission stations we could. I...I think I should emphasize that. I was talking to a pastor in another state one time. He had just been to Africa and to Ghana and he had visited some of the people, some of them that I knew and one of the girls was from my home state. "Did you visit her?" "Yes." And then I said, "Did you visit somebody else?" "Oh no, we only visited our own mission." You know, there's...there is a narrowness there. You can come back and say, "We're the only ones preaching." We visited every mission whether we were in harmony with them or not. We took fresh fruits to them, just a friendly visit with all of them. But we had such a good time visiting all those people. And I do feel that a person is wrong who goes to visit just one mission and comes home with a statement, "We're the only ones." Maybe there are others that are not but maybe there always...also are some that are. Well, I was there and then I went over to Liberia to visit friends and radio station ELWA and so on. And then as we came back I was just a transit passenger so I couldn't get off in Ghana at Accra. So I waited and they waited and waited to open the door and finally when the opened the plane door to let off passengers there I looked out and there were the firing squads again. They love a bit of pageantry [Ericksen laughs] and they were really showing that they weren't going to let him come back. But they did have great big oil drums of rocks every little distance along the field. No plane could come in without getting those things removed. But he never came back. But it was great to see some of the people. [laughs] One of the silly things: some of the people rejoicing about it. And one day we'd gone to this little town who's name I don't remember, but Jack had gone off to get something for us. And I was just sitting there on stone wall with my camera beside me and here came bunch of them waving and shouting and waving their banners and their clubs and so on and coming right at me. It's enough that it could scare one to death but I wasn't. I thought, "What ever are they after?" And as they got there it dawned on me they wanted their pictures taken. But they were just so close, just...you couldn't anything. I finally got one man's attention. I could say to him in English, "They want their pictures, don't they?" "Yes." Well, I said, "They're too close. They'll have to get back." And he had them back up. And I put the camera up and snapped their pictures. They were perfectly content and they went on. And then I found that the film didn't go through camera. So the pictures [laughs] were never produced. But they were exciting times and they were interesting times. And many of the people were rejoicing that he had gone out. And then, of course, they've had.... I was talking to somebody a few months ago and they said, "When were you in Ghana?" Oh I said, "Just after the coup." "Which one?" Well, I didn't know about any others. "Oh," he said, "we've had a dozen since that time." They [laughs] have them over and over but....
ERICKSEN: So when was the time you were in Africa?
PHILIPS: That was in '66. Yeah.
ERICKSEN: So basically your responsibilities during that time were...in those countries was to visit different missin...mission stations to promote the work of Wycliffe among them. Is that right?
PHILIPS: I got some opportunity to provoke...promoting the work of Wycliffe but in others I was getting information to present over here.
ERICKSEN: For [?] Wycliffe missionaries.
PHILIPS: That's right.
PHILIPS: So that's...that's was I was doing in most cases but in some places there were groups of them that I could speak to also.
ERICKSEN: Now during this...this extended period did you have a furlough?
ERICKSEN: You told me you missed one furlough. Was that the furlough that...?
PHILIPS: Yeah, and [pauses]...yes, when I...I wrote about getting a furlough they said, "Home assigned people don't get a furlough." They've changed their minds now. They do now. And finally at the end of the seventeen years I got to New York State and friends there and I had several months off. So I had a bit of furlough then. Wait a minute. That was not the end of the seventeen years. There was a time in that and then I continued for several years after that.
ERICKSEN: What about [pauses], for example, in Australia and in New Zealand? Were you reporting on Wycliffe work then to churches there as well? Did you notice any differences between missions interest let's say in North America and Australia and New Zealand?
PHILIPS: It was...it was pretty much the same. Some of them.... Well, you go to some churches here, they're not interested.
PHILIPS: They've never been interested. And we found that there. But to many of them in each place they didn't know that such people existed. And it's...there...there were great similarities and some differences but I was perfectly at home in each place. People have...have said, "Oh, did you find it hard to get on with them?" No, of course, I was dealing with Christians to a great extent. But, oh, we hit some snags but you hit snags in this country too.
ERICKSEN: Looking back over your long career, anything you wished you had done differently?
PHILIPS: Possibly the only thing that would have been said...I could say would be to get out quicker. I took those years trying to get money to go on to school as I said earlier. If I could have taken the Bible school and gone right on out, but my vision was the medical line. And, of course, we need to get out as quickly as we can and to wake people up to an interest. Not to say, "How much are you going to help to support me?" but "This needs to be done. How about praying for those people? Pray us as we get into the work." And I like to tell prospective missionaries, "Be sure you do plenty of deputation, not just with money in mind but to get the prayer help. That's the greatest need on every mission field."
ERICKSEN: You've mentioned in the course of our time talking the importance of prayer. [pauses] Who was it that...was there anyone in particular who emphasized that to you?
PHILIPS: I don't know. I think possibly at the Bible school it might have been emphasized more. Though I had been...when I got my school teaching job, interestingly enough, they tried to...it was a time when they had a high school weekend at the college when they were out looking for them and I was out and busy with various people. And the fact that it was hard to catch up with me, they realized [laughs] that I was busy with others and I was hired to this teaching position, particularly put me in charge of the young peoples work in this church. [sound of passing train] That was a factor. The very fact that they had found me active in those things. So that had made a difference. I had always been interested in those and I was praying with them for them. But I think the greater emphasis on prayer came with further Bible study and with the Bible Institute training.
ERICKSEN: Are there any classing as you look back to your time at Prairie Bible that you were especially glad that you had?
PHILIPS: That's pretty hard to say. They were all good. Everything was just intensely practical. I appreciated very much the course in missions, church history and missions, and how the Lord had worked there. But then each of the Bible courses. One...this one teacher when we were studying the synoptic Gospels and when we came to the point the woman who touched the hem of the Lord's garment, and He [Jesus] said, "Who touched me?" [Mark 5:30ff] And they rebuked Him, you know, for saying what.., "Look at all these people you couldn't...." He said, "I perceive that virtue has gone out of me." And she [instructor] said at that time to us, "Remember, young folks, if you take a meeting and it doesn't cost you anything you haven't done anything, but if you take a meeting and you're exhausted afterward, don't be shocked. You've...you've touched somebody. And it...it you're...you're really touching hearts and when you touch hearts it costs you, whether.... You may not realize that you're doing anything different but there is that reaction." And it's such an encouragement, you know...when you come out dead tired after something, it's encouraging to realize that the Lord has used that. And so that was an encouraging thing. Well, the course in synoptic Gospels was excellent. The course in Jeremiah was tremendous. Well, they all were.
ERICKSEN: Why do those...why do those ring bells? What was so...what was...?
PHILIPS: What was the particular thing that makes them ring a bell?
ERICKSEN: Yeah, like Jeremiah.
PHILIPS: Well, we had to write a paper on Jeremiah, on Jeremiah and Lamentations and seeing how that whole thing affected Jeremiah, and his...his weeping, of course. Tears are essential sometimes but we are embarrassed to death if we weep, naturally. But we saw that and then we had to write the paper showing what it cost Jeremiah. And I tell you, as you...as you lived into that, you kind of felt the cost too. It was...it was very good. And then, of course, our book... course on Hebrews was.... They just all tremendous. I don't know. Each one as we get into that, it is so rich and then we go into the next. Well, when you're reading the Bible isn't that it? So many people say, "Well, this is my favorite book." And they get over here, "This is my favorite book." I don't know which is my favorite book in the Bible. Each one as you...right at that time as the Lord fits it to a particular need there it is.
ERICKSEN: Let's shift gears a minute. What do you remember about Jennie Fitzwilliam?
PHILIPS: [laughs] She was in the prep school looking after the youngsters. I believe she also helped in the wardrobe. I'm not sure.
ERICKSEN: What is the wardrobe?
PHILIPS: Each...each class has their wardrobe setup. We had our wardrobe mistress, the one who would inspect the girls before they would go anywhere they...and keep their clothes up to date and so on. And I'm not sure that Jennie worked in that. I sort of connect her with it but I'm not sure. And, of course, we knew her. Oh, we...we had many contacts with her and she was another one of the ladies along with us and we enjoyed her. But her son Jack was there. I wanted to ask her about Jack but we didn't get to see her today. But he was in the prep school and then he went through the boys' school.
ERICKSEN: Now she arrived from Yunnan, I believe, in 1941.
PHILIPS: I wouldn't be surprised....
ERICKSEN: But it was prior to the house arrest?
PHILIPS: Oh yes. Prior to Pearl Harbor.
PHILIPS: She was there a little while before. Of course, we were under Japanese quote protection from '38 onward. The protection you're comfortable without. And she came there under Japanese protection but when Pearl Harbor came that was real protection.
ERICKSEN: And then she went to Temple Hill and to Weihsien and then was repatriated at the same time you were.
PHILIPS: That's right. I don't remember which of the buildings. I think perhaps she was [pauses]...perhaps she was in the building with the prep school. You see, our camp had the boy's school, the prep school, and this odd group of old folks and so on. And I'd rather think that she was in that one perhaps over in the prep school but I'm not sure. And she came home on the Gripsholm with us and I haven't seen her to talk to her since. Forty years.
ERICKSEN: Yeah. Talked to her just I guess it was last year about this time several times.
PHILIPS: Well, I'm sorry we didn't get to see her today so I could catch up with her but that's out.
ERICKSEN: Well, I think, we've certainly covered a lot of territory. Is there anything we haven't touched on that you'd like to mention?
PHILIPS: I didn't tell you the lesson my mother taught me did I?
PHILIPS: Mother and father were both Christians and both taught me many lessons but this one has been a real help to me all through the years. When I was a child I always did what she told me to when I got ready. And sometimes I had something I wanted to do first. And I'd run off and do that and then come and do what she told me. And I remember her saying, "Remember Martha, delayed obedience is disobedience." And that's such a good...such a good fact. If we know what the Lord wants and we delay to do something else.... Some people say, "Well, after I get this and this done, then I'll serve the Lord." Delayed obedience is disobedience. And it's been a real lesson to me all through the years. The moment we know it we should obey it immediately. And I think that's probably a good lesson for everybody though they didn't have it the same way I did. But delayed obedience is disobedience and our proof of our walk in the Lord and our love for Him is our walk of obedience. And so often, oh, we can sing those songs "Oh How I Love Jesus" and all of that but "No, I'm not going to do what He tells me," and we don't get anywhere. So I...pardon?
ERICKSEN: Were there times when you felt like you delayed?
PHILIPS: Well, sometimes I've been a little bit hesitant, but that message has...has come to me to get me to...to move on. And we do need it. And, actually, if the Lord lays it on our heart right then is when He want's it done. [clears throat] And sometimes it may be...it may be difficult but it may be just right. But as I also tell young folks the Lord will never ask us to do anything we can't do with His enabling. Somebody, I don't know who, coined the phrase "These's nothing in this world that the Lord and I can't do." And it's true if He commands us to do it, He's the enabling. I would have laughed [cleared throat], excuse me, if anybody told me I was going to be a translator. I wasn't a linguist. I was a scientist. But when the Lord laid it on my heart with this matter of going back to China, I took the linguistics and so on, thoroughly enjoyed it and then He's led me right on into that. I sometimes wonder how He would have led me into Wycliffe if I hadn't done that with China in mind. I was forty when I took that course. And if they were too old to go to China at twenty-eight, what would you at forty? But anyway when the Lord commands us, He enables us. We had two teams. Our aim has always been to do one New Testament and go on to another and so on. Several years ago we had two teams that had each had finished one New Testament. One team was going down to Colombia for a third. They've finished that now. The second team was going up into Alaska to a related language up there. And the older member of the team had a stroke and died. She was only eighty-one but she was going to start another language. And the Lord's enabling...His command is His enabling. [clears throat] But that was quite an illustration too.
PHILIPS: The other partner who was a little younger than she, I don't know how much, is still working among the...really working among the people here in the States. But it's...it's an interesting work and it's wide open to everybody. We have so many support personnel. You know all about that probably. But when I was in Mexico and drove this jeep we didn't have any support personnel, mechanics. Now we have full-time mechanics going on down there, just as much mechanics...missionaries as anybody else. But I like to think when I'm talking about the...the written translation, we're spending [clears throat] years doing a written translation but we're doing two kinds of translation. The written one takes so long the other one starts more quickly, it starts the moment we enter the tribe. Those people are literally in our pockets day and night, testing, trying, proving and if they fail to see the life of the Lord Jesus they'll never believe what we say or what we write. And so I think we need to...to remind people to pray for all the missionaries they know. They're not all doing written translations but all are life translation. And then, of course, we need to pray for one another right here because we're doing life translations here. It just is...it's amazing when you think everything is so interlinked and we...we do need to pray for with them for one another. I can't think of anything else right now.
ERICKSEN: Well, I can't think of and other questions to ask so maybe it's a good time to stop. Thanks very much.
PHILIPS: It's...it's been a real joy and I hope it is helpful to some.
ERICKSEN: It will be.